Sunday 19th of September 2021

casino royal mess...

crown   The first of three inquiries into Crown Resorts and the conduct of its casino business kicks off on Tuesday in Sydney, when the former supreme court judge Patricia Bergin is expected to outline how she intends to tackle her task.

Witnesses are likely to be called at a later date, when the New South Wales inquiry –set up at arm’s length to the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority – begins in earnest.

Two other inquiries – by the Victorian casino authorities and the public hearings to be held by federal Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, appear to be on hold for the time being, awaiting the results of investigations.

At the same time, Crown is fighting efforts by shareholders who are suing it in a class action to take witness statements from company employees convicted in China for illegally promoting gambling.

The NSW inquiry is expected to focus on the proposed $1.75bn sale of 20% of Crown to Lawrence Ho’s Melco Resorts, and whether this sale gives rise to any issues about probity of close associates or breaches of a specific clause in Crown’s licence for the Barangaroo casino which prevents Ho’s father, Stanley Ho, and a list of specified companies being associates of Crown.

The clause was inserted into the licence when it was granted in 2014 after an adverse finding by New Jersey authorities about Stanley Ho and possible alleged connections with triads in Macau and China.


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Picture at top by Gus Leonisky (16/01/20)

it started here...






Picture by Gus Leonisky: Crown Casino

crane and crown...

Wild winds send swinging crane damaging glass of Crown Sydney in BarangarooBarangaroo: Wild winds have sent a swinging crane into the side of the Crown Sydney construction site, smashing into and badly damaging glass of a building window. 

shuffling chairs after the stock market closes...

Crown Resorts' executive chairman John Alexander will step down, just days after it was revealed he would be called to give evidence at a public hearing into the casino giant.

He will be replaced by former Liberal minister Helen Coonan, in a shock reshuffle that was announced after the share market closed on Friday.

Meanwhile, Crown's chief financial officer Ken Barton will be elevated to the role of chief executive.

These management changes were implemented ahead of a NSW Government inquiry — which will look into James Packer's sale of his stake in Crown Resorts to a Hong Kong-based casino operator.

More to come.


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saving the "essential" chance industry...


Casinos should be shut down during the coronavirus crisis, public health specialists and the Victorian opposition have said, with one expert telling Guardian Australia their continued operation were “an unnecessary risk to public health”.

Crown Melbourne and all other poker machine venues around the country should be closed to slow the coronavirus outbreak, Monash University associate professor Charles Livingstone said.

The Melbourne and Perth casinos operated by James Packer’s Crown Resorts have exemptions from each state’s health authorities to keep operating.


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betting on anything, more...

crown casino, sydney

crown casino, sydney

People who gamble regularly online are doing so just as often or more frequently during the coronavirus lockdown, despite the lack of sporting fixtures, according to the first significant survey of betting habits during the crisis.

The findings, in a Survation poll, will fuel concerns that a broader fall in part-time gambling is masking more intense betting among problem gamblers, or a move towards riskier products, such as online casino games.

Overall, respondents to the survey, of more than 1,000 people, were more likely to have reduced their gambling since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak, which has forced the cancellation of sports such as football and horse racing.

However, regular gamblers said they were gambling more. A quarter of those who typically bet at least once a week said they were still doing so, while 28% had increased their activity, and 11% said they were gambling a lot more.

The absence of opportunities to bet on sport indicate that they are resorting to online casino games and slot machines, which carry higher rates of addiction. Even among casual gamblers, more than half of respondents said they had sustained or increased their level of gambling.

The survey also found that 41% of people who bet had opened a new online account since the pandemic took hold. And more than a third of regular gamblers believed they were either spending too much on the habit, or developing an addiction.


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like a silver suppository...

crown casino, sydney...


The Packer tower looks to me somewhat like an elongated suppository (Letters, July 6). It subtly reminds the people of NSW that if they don’t like what the state government and the big end of town are up to, they know where their objections can be put.

William Galton, Hurstville Grove


SMH (7/7/2020)


Note the other buildings soon to appear in the skyline...





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a fortune in a cupboard...

The former media executive who became chairman of Crown Resorts and one of James Packer’s right-hand men, John Alexander, has been grilled over his role in Crown’s controversial defence of allegations it was involved in money laundering.

The company in July 2019 ran a full-page advertisement arguing that reporting in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age was part of a “deceitful campaign”.

Alexander had once been the editor-in-chief of the Herald and a champion of journalistic exposés. By 2019, however, he was a loyal Packer employee and both the chief executive and chair of Crown.

Crown’s strident defence in the advertisement, also issued to the ASX, has now come back to haunt it.

The statements in the advertisement are being picked over, line by line, in the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming inquiry into whether Crown remains suitable to hold a Sydney casino licence.

The ad rejected allegations that Crown turned a blind eye to money laundering or partnered with junkets with links to organised crime.

Junkets are organisations that bring high rollers – mainly from China – to casinos. They often share in the takings from the gambler and in some cases operate the high-roller rooms within the casino. This was the case with Suncity, which operated in Crown Melbourne.

At the time that much of the alleged behaviour is said to have taken place, Alexander was both CEO and chairman of the board, from 2017 to January 2020. Prior to that, he was deputy chairman from 2007 – employed by Packer to focus on the casino business.


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More views of the silvery suppository:

old and new




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board attack...



Board attack in the spotlight By Patrick Hatch


Counsel assisting the inquiry Naomi Sharp, SC, now asks whether James Packer accepts that parts of the Crown board's full-page ad and ASX release attacking last year's media reports are wrong. (You can read about some of the inaccuracies here).

Packer: Yes.

Sharp: As a former director, and indeed as the [former] executive chairman of Crown Resorts, is it your view that the publication of this open letter by the directors reflects upon their judgement?

Packer: No, I don’t.


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masks and wallets...


Crown Resorts will push ahead with opening gaming floors in its Barangaroo casino in less than two months, despite evidence before a regulator’s inquiry casting serious doubt over its future operating conditions.

James Packer’s casino giant is planning a ‘‘soft opening’’ of its gaming facilities, some restaurants and the hotel at its $2.2 billion tower in Sydney from December 14, once the building is handed over to operators on December 7.

A spokesman for the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority said it was closely monitoring evidence aired at the inquiry into Crown’s suitability to hold a casino licence in Sydney.

‘‘We respect the inquiry’s independence and do not wish to pre-empt its findings,’’ the spokesman said.

The inquiry – triggered by a series of reports by The Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes last year about Crown’s junket partners, its failure to stop money laundering at its Melbourne and Perth casinos and how it put its staff in danger of arrest in China – is due to report in February.

However, it remains open to the inquiry’s commissioner to hand down an interim report ahead of its final report, which might include recommendations for the government on its licence.

Otherwise, if the government wanted to change the casino’s licence conditions, including the opening date, legislation would be required.

Despite a week of extraordinary evidence before the probity inquiry’s Commissioner, Patricia Bergin, Crown Resorts chairwoman Helen Coonan insists the casino will open in December. This is despite a scarcity of international tourists and she says the 75-storey tower is ‘‘not going to be a white elephant’’.

‘‘The facility is much more than about gaming, it’s about restaurants, it’s about public access to certain parts, the observation deck, conference centres. Obviously you don’t open a facility if you don’t think it will be financially viable,’’ she said.


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SMH 10/10/2020

smoking rights to stay competitive????

The NSW government has defended its decision to exempt Crown’s forthcoming Sydney casino from certain smoking regulations, as anti-smoking campaigners accused the casino operator of putting profits ahead of the health and safety of workers and patrons.

With Crown Sydney slated to open in December, its all-VIP gaming floor is set to double as one of Australia’s biggest indoor smoking areas – described in 2013 as larger than the Sydney Cricket Ground’s playing surface at about 20,000 square metres.

Alecia Brooks, tobacco control unit manager at Cancer Council NSW, said the exemption for high roller gaming rooms was contrary to public health evidence and put employees and patrons at serious risk.

But the government and Crown say smoking in VIP areas is required for the casino to ‘‘remain competitive’’.

A spokesman for Liquor & Gaming NSW said smoking would be permitted in gaming areas of the new casino ‘‘so it can remain competitive in the international VIP gaming market’’.

‘‘Private gaming areas at The Star and interstate casinos have also been exempted from general indoor smoking bans,’’ he said.

He said Crown Sydney would have to install and maintain air quality equipment of an ‘‘international best practice standard’’, and to have it independently tested every three months.

A Crown spokeswoman said the exemption from smoking restrictions in VIP gaming areas allowed Crown Sydney to ‘‘remain competitive’’ as Australian and international casinos allow smoking in VIP gaming areas.

‘‘Sophisticated air quality technology’’ had been installed, which will be tested by an independent expert, she said, and non-smoking areas will be provided.

Ms Brooks said smoking was not permitted in casinos in Tasmania, the ACT and South Australia, while overseas casinos in places such as Macau were moving to restrict smoking. ‘‘The revenue is not a justifiable argument when it leaves workers and patrons exposed to dangerous second-hand smoke,’’ she said.

The Crown spokeswoman declined to confirm the size of the casino’s indoor smoking area. In September the company told the Australian Stock Exchange that gaming operations will consist of 30 table games across 12 private gaming salons within the tower, and 129 table games and 66 electronic table game terminals in two gaming rooms within the podium of Crown Sydney.

The Star casino also has an exemption from the government to offer indoor smoking in some private gaming salons, which a spokesman said were used predominantly by international VIP players.

‘‘These salons represent just over 5 per cent of the casino areas within The Star Sydney and they are not accessible to the general public,’’ he said. A growing number of casino guests preferred a non-smoking environment, he said.

NSW Greens MP Jamie Parker said the ‘‘deadly exemption’’ was granted in 2013 on the basis that Crown needed a smoking venue to attract wealthy Asia high rollers. ‘‘But now all that is needed to gain access to the so-called VIP rooms is the willingness to spend only $20 per hand at blackjack,’’ he said.

Labor health spokesman Ryan Park said there was no safe level of smoking.


SMH 11/10/2020



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not suitable to hold a gaming licence ...

An inquiry into Crown Resorts has been told the company is not suitable to hold the licence for the soon-to-be-opened multi-billion dollar casino in inner Sydney.

The Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) has been examining the conduct of Crown in its current casinos in Melbourne and Perth, including its international VIP gaming operations.

Commissioner Patricia Bergin is expected to give her final decision early next year, including what restrictions could be placed on the Australian gaming giant if it is allowed to continue operating.

In his closing submissions, Counsel Assisting Adam Bell today told the inquiry he believed Crown was not suitable to hold the licence for the new Barangaroo premises.

“In summary, we submit that the evidence presented to this inquiry demonstrates that the licensee is not a suitable person to continue to give effect to the licence and that Crown Resorts is not a suitable person to be a close associate of the licensee,” he said.

The inquiry has raised serious allegations that the company ignored warning signs of money laundering within its casinos, partnered with junket operators despite their links to organised crime and ignored the safety of their staff in China, who were technically working illegally.

Mr Bell highlighted the arrest of the employees in China four years ago as a significant factor in the company’s failures.

Nineteen employees were arrested and charged for promoting gambling to source VIPs for its high-roller business, 16 who were eventually imprisoned in a Chinese prison.

Evidence was put to the inquiry showing Crown should have been aware of the risk to staff after a widely publicised crackdown on such operations in China and the fact staff had raised concerns with senior staff prior to their arrests.

Mr Bell said the result was “ultimately harmful” to the public interest and it showed the reporting lines within the company were “compromised”.

“We submit that the facts and circumstances which culminated in those arrests are directly relevant to the present suitability to the licensee for at least the following reasons,” he said.

“We submit that the evidence in relation to the China arrests demonstrates serious and systemic failures within those structures and frameworks.

“Secondly, the evidence in relation to the China arrests provides an indication into how Crown Resorts and its leaders may respond to dynamic and changing circumstances that are inherent within its business.

“This is underscored by the current board’s strong public defence of Crown Resorts’ conduct in this regard in a manner, which it is submitted failed to have due regard of the facts and circumstances which led to the arrests.

“It’s submitted that the culture within Crown Resorts exposed its staff to risk and led to the failure to adequately respond in the face of escalating risk.”

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she would seek “urgent and immediate” advice on the matter.

“I think, at the end of the day, we need to do what’s in the best interests of the citizens of our state,” she said.



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shameful and disgraceful...

James Packer’s “shameful” and “disgraceful” conduct mean he is not suitable to be associated with a new $2.2 billion Sydney casino, an inquiry has heard.

The NSW casino regulator had previously approved the billionaire to be a “close associate” of the company, a subsidiary of casino giant Crown Resorts, which was awarded a licence to run the new casino.

But counsel assisting an inquiry into Crown Resorts’ suitability to run the casino says the state’s Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority should reconsider that approval.

Mr Packer admitted to the inquiry last month that aggressive emails he sent to an unidentified potential investor in Crown Resorts were “shameful” and “disgraceful”, but blamed his bipolar disorder.

Counsel assisting, Adam Bell SC, says Mr Packer provided no evidence to show his medical condition led that conduct. Emails sent on the same day were expressed in “perceptive and businesslike terms”.

“The difference was that Mr X had conveyed information to Mr Packer which was bad news, which Mr Packer did not want to hear,” Mr Bell said on Thursday.

Even after Mr Packer resigned from the Crown Resorts board in 2018, he remained a de facto director with “extraordinary influence” on the company, Mr Bell argued.

A controlling shareholder protocol allowed Mr Packer to receive confidential information, which meant he had at least as much access to confidential information as the executive chairman, John Alexander, and more than the other directors.

“In fact, if anything, Mr Packer’s access to information was even more extensive to that of Mr Alexander,” Mr Bell said.


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crown money laundering...

Crown Resorts has been banned from opening its new Sydney casino next month, after NSW’s gambling regulator said it was “not comfortable” with the company operating the multibillion-dollar venue at Barangaroo.

The decision by the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority comes after the company admitted on Wednesday in an inquiry that money laundering had likely occurred through accounts it set up for its VIP players.

ILGA chairman Philip Crawford said the authority was “not comfortable” with Crown operating gaming operations until it received the findings from the ongoing inquiry, before Commissioner Patricia Bergin, SC.

Commissioner Bergin is examining Crown’s fitness to hold the licence, and her final report is not due until February 2021.

Mr Crawford said the ILGA’s biggest concern was around money laundering, which Crown admitted was “likely” happening in its business in a submission tendered to the inquiry late on Tuesday.

“We had no notice that was being done, I don’t think the Bergin inquiry or counsel assisting were aware of it and it’s come at the eleventh hour, literally – apparently 11 o’clock last night,” he said.

It was Crown Resorts’ first admission to the ILGA that money-laundering was “likely” occurring through the accounts it sets up for its VIP players.

The ILGA has been examining evidence concerning suspicious activity within the accounts set up by Crown since January.

The operation saw millions of dollars deposited for high-rollers to play at Crown’s casinos in Melbourne and Perth.

The accounts were operated by two companies controlled by Crown known as Riverbank and Southbank.


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10 to one no-gambling opening...


Embattled casino giant Crown Resorts will press ahead with the December opening of its new Sydney complex despite the gaming regulator withholding a casino licence.

Crown told the ASX on Wednesday evening it plans to progressively commence non-gaming operations at Crown Sydney from December 28.

The Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) has issued a temporary liquor licence which will allow Crown to run a new hotel, restaurants and bars at the new Barangaroo building.

But Crown Sydney’s centrepiece – a ritzy casino for VIPs and high-rollers – will remain unopened, after ILGA withheld a gaming licence because of probity concerns.

The company’s suitability to hold the licence is the subject of a long-running inquiry, which aired allegations of money laundering, corporate governance stuff-ups and involvement with organised crime.

ILGA says it will consider the gaming licence issue when the inquiry reports back in February 2020.

In the meantime, Crown has a liquor licence from December 16 to April 30. It will be required to re-apply for a liquor licence from May 1 so that ILGA can consider any suitability concerns arising from the inquiry before granting an extension.

The regulator is still considering two licence applications for two restaurants at Crown Sydney and says it will make a decision within the week.


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crowning corrupt glory...

A grubby and corrupting traffic in misery


By JACK WATERFORD | On 17 February 2021

Commissioner Bergin’s report did not devote a word to the sleazy and improper way James Packer was effectively given Barangaroo by a new Liberal Premier, Barry O’Farrell. And not a word about the slew of former Labor and Liberal Party apparatchiks who moved on to make their fortunes prostituting their inside knowledge and their access to politicians.

If I were asking if Australian casino managers were fit and proper people, I would begin with an analysis of their relationships with government, not with organised crime, so far as that is not the same thing. There’s a good chance that the former is the more corrupting, the more corrosive of the public interest, and the more a cancer on the lives of thousands of Australian families.

There were more than 600 pages of tight commentary and analysis of power structures and processes in Crown casino in commissioner Bergin’s report on whether the operation was being run by fit and proper people. She thought not. But she did not devote a word or a sentence to the sleazy and improper way by which James Packer was effectively given Barangaroo by a new Liberal Premier, Barry O’Farrell.

Not a word about the stable of former Labor and Liberal Party apparatchiks who moved on to make their fortunes prostituting their inside knowledge and their access to politicians so as to enhance his fortunes. Only passing reference to the way members of the Packer family have adopted, then dumped, prominent sports players, television “personalities’’ and even journalists over the years. Nor the others making their money by representing other gambling interests, hotels and clubs, the wine and liquor industry. It is a dirty and a shameful business, not in the least better or more honourable because of the supposed regulation of some lobbying, or the fact that perfectly decent people, even former politicians, become advocates for more respectable causes or businesses.

The mental health problems, and more recent effective withdrawal from public life, of James Packer may deserve him some public sympathy and perhaps some understanding. But in many respects his personality and business history, including a history of abuse and threats of people who stand in his way, are all of a one with the careers of his father and his grandfather, both feared and revered as great businessmen. Yet James’ father Kerry, seen as a bold entrepreneur, not least with cricket and football, and his sale and re-purchase of Channel Nine, was over-rated as a businessman. Had he bought government bonds with what he inherited from his father, Sir Frank, he would have died a richer man. I doubt James will be able to say even that.

The Packers, the Fairfaxes and the Murdochs were never great capitalists operating on free markets. They have always sought shelter from competition, even now from Google and Facebook. Their wealth was built on monopolies, mostly given free by government.

Owning newspapers mostly meant they could dominate markets for advertising, or advertising of a particular sort. But it was the granting of commercial TV licences that took their wealth to new levels. Governments, usually Liberal ones, handed out the licences to the established media players because of fear of their power and influence, real or imagined, over voters. In many cases, as now, favours have been given even before they have been asked.

The biggest problem of successive ministers for communications, including Helen Coonan, has been in anticipating the need for changes in the rules so as to accommodate media barons – often a difficult task if the agendas of particular barons clashed. At times over the years, extra monopolies – particularly over gambling – have been conferred, usually without any public quid pro quo for the value of the licences given.

Pre-emptive buckles, or a genuine common belief in the particular regulatory environment temporarily being sought (for advantage) by politicians, rarely earns long-term loyalty in return:  those seeking return favours are asked not what they have done to deserve it, but what they have done lately.

But if the Bergin inquiry had many missing chapters, it also had many missing points. After ploughing to about half-way, the reader might have been forgiven for thinking it an inquiry into whether Crown was well owned, or directed or managed, rather than whether the public interest was served by having them, or anyone else, given a pick-pocketing licence.

It  has been simply taken as read – via a “trust us” decision by a deeply compromised government – that new players should operate in the market. The question was whether Crown had so far demonstrated the integrity, probity and purity of heart, to be the one.  What sunk it most of all was that senior managers – mostly associated with original Packer control – were willing to talk the talk about tough controls to keep things fair and to keep criminals out.

But when choices were called for that might have had made the casino less attractive to big money, criminal or not, managers were reluctant, resistant, and had a tendency to look to the letter, rather than the spirit, of the law. In the spirit of just that, managers also tried to hide adverse reports behind claims of legal privilege, having laundered them though the law firms.

The first chapters of the books on government corruption, bribery, jobbery and misuse of public resources, were written on the history of gambling, grog, blackmail and sexual sin. Under the modern regime the potential for graft and improper “earns” is increasing exponentially, as, probably the prospect of post-career employment. No wonder there is so little official interest in making the system more honest. Only public outrage can overwhelm this.

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polishing the crown halo with influencers...

Celebrities and instafamous influencers have been clambering for snaps at Crown Sydney, just weeks after the company that operates it was savaged in a report which found it facilitated money laundering.


Key points:
  • Crown Resorts was found unsuitable to hold a licence for its new casino
  • Restaurants, bars and the hotel were opened in December
  • The company recently posted a half-yearly loss of $120 million


Comedian Andy Lee, racing heiress Kate Waterhouse and Instagram model Lily Maymac are among those who have been featuring the hotel's restaurants and rooftop pools on their social media profiles.

On February 9, a report commissioned by NSW's Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) deemed Crown Resorts not suitable to operate the new casino, which has already been built inside the $2.2 billion facility at Barangaroo.

A string of directors have resigned from the company's board in the wake of the findings, which have prompted similar probes to be established in Victoria and Western Australia, where Crown already operates casinos.

Since the bombshell report, celebrities have been fawning over the company's sparkling new Sydney skyscraper in an apparent marketing blitz.

One Instagram post by reality TV star Anna Heinrich and Tim Robards, carried the hashtag "#sponsored" and showed the couple canoodling in their lux room.

The restaurants, bars and hotel — where the cheapest room available this Saturday night is $1,199 — opened in December, while the casino licence was pending.

And while the new facility may have created a splash on social media, some argue it's unlikely to reopen the gaming giant's dwindling revenue stream.

Crown's bottom-line has been dealt blow after blow.

The pandemic stopped its VIP high-roller model as it was forced to halt junket operations, its Melbourne and Perth venues face upcoming investigations and it's scrambling to prove itself fit to hold a Sydney casino licence.

The company recently posted a half-yearly loss of $120 million and five board members have resigned in the wake of the damning Bergin report handed down last month.


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Crown Resorts executive chairman Helen Coonan has denied trying to interfere with Victoria’s royal commission into the group when she wrote to the gaming minister to warn findings against its Melbourne casino licence would be a “huge problem for the government too”.

The letter Ms Coonan and her lawyers at Arnold Bloch Leibler sent to gaming minister Melissa Horne on July 2 requesting an “urgent meeting” was read out at the royal commission on Thursday, its second last day of public hearings.


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